St Vincent's fourth album is a bold commerical statement that never sacrifices the art or the intrigue.
On her fourth album, Texas-born Annie Erin Clark goes for broke or at least crude commercial success. Who can blame her? Having scored some of the best reviews in recent history, she may have decided that the fringe benefits of being exalted on the fringe are all very well but these songs deserve to be heard by everyone.
At a time when overnight success only lasts until the following night, St Vincent’s return is very welcome indeed. This tellingly self-titled set of songs may sound in places like a radio friendly unit shifter but St Vincent never sacrifices her weird way with a melody or the way these outwardly slippery songs reveal themselves to be superb pop symphonies.
These songs about such varied themes as getting naked and encountering snakes in the desert, taking out the garbage and, well, masturbating, and having a conversation with a Black Panthers leader during a dream, are set to processed guitars, compressed to almost flat line drums, and a swooping and fluttering voice that has never sounded better.
Huey Newton, named after the founder of The Black Panthers, is all sweetness and half-light before it turns into crazed, sweat-drenched night terror and on the celestial Prince Johnny, St Vincent's extraordinary guitar style grunts and splutters over a gorgeous slow jam.
On Digital Witness, she takes a jaundiced and funny view on social media saturation and how it has made us all inured to state surveillance. She asks what’s the point of doing anything if it can’t be viewed by everybody else en masse? As a variation on a tree falling in a forest, it’s a sentiment that will warm hearts at both the NSA and Google HQ.
Bring Me Your Loves is in a confusion of electronic squiggles, halting vocals, and fat distorted bass before it locks into another great melody that owes a lot to Merrill Garbus' equally excellent band, tUnE-yArDs. St Vincent’s marvellous fuzzy and crunchy guitar style returns on Psychopath, a song so catchy a US VJ from 1985 might have called it a heat seeker smash.
She titled her debut 2007 album Marry Me and the cover art was simplicity itself; now St Vincent says her new and very striking image pictures her as a “Near future cult leader”. It’s quite a leap forward and quite a statement. This intoxicating record will recruit a lot of new followers.